Lenox's hot-button issues for schools remain in focus


LENOX -- After delving deeply into the key issues surrounding the future of the town's school district at an all-day retreat, the School Department's 13-member strategic study group will meet on Wednesday to discuss next steps.

The public meeting at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall is designed to review the results of the retreat, examine the information that emerged and consider the best way to move forward, said schools Superintendent Edward Costa II.

Attending the session will be the outside consultant, Steve Kutno of the Public Consulting Group, hired by the School Department to gather data from the community and help shepherd the strategic study.

The retreat last Monday at Cranwell Resort was attended by 26 community volunteers, including parents, three high school students, the members of the Strategic Planning Committee, four School Committee representatives, and four school administrators.

Kutno exhorted the 50 participants to remain optimistic, emphasize open and honest collaboration, ensure that all voices are heard, avoid fear, refrain from egotism and clarify ideas. He also urged them to "remember to laugh, and have fun."

After hours of brainstorming in small groups and sharing suggestions in brief presentations, the team focusing on financial stability recommended that school choice and regionalization be analyzed for their potential "value to the community."

Both subjects have emerged as hot-button issues through surveys and interviews with 1,200 community members conducted by the consultants last fall.

The school district is seeing declining enrollment -- from 829 in 2010 to the current 753 -- while 29 percent of the student body now comes from other communities such as Pittsfield and Richmond. State-mandated tuition rates for choice students, unchanged for 20 years, are now only about one-third the $15,000 per-pupil cost of education in Lenox.

The group studying character education recommended development of a culture and environment "where students feel safe, with a sense of empathy and trust."

Among some of the other suggestions: School leadership should dramatically improve communication to enhance community satisfaction; the school system should "extend pathways to provide for individual needs of students"; market Lenox as a desirable town to live in because of its strong schools; develop strategies to hire and retain the best teachers; and pursue development of more programs to address the needs of a diverse student population.

The ultimate goal of the strategic study is to focus on three to five top priority issues for action within the next three to five years. The final plan will be presented to the public for discussion next month before it is reviewed by the School Committee.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

On the Web ...

The views of the 1,200 people -- taxpayers, parents, teachers, faculty, staff and administrators -- surveyed for the strategic study are represented in the final 252-page report, starting with a 24-page summary, posted online at www.lenoxps.org.


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